Philip Eugene Sanders Sr., born November 2, 1930 in Austin, Texas, to Eugene and Lois Burdett Sanders, died peacefully on January 30, 2023 at the age of 92, with his two daughters and wife at his side.
A lifelong Austinite, Phil attended Travis Heights Elementary, Fulmore Junior High, and graduated from Austin High in 1948. He continued his academic career at the University of Texas, where he earned both an undergraduate and a law degree.
Phil began his professional career as a lawyer in the office of the Texas Attorney General. He then served as first assistant in the office of the Travis County District Attorney. After leaving that position, Phil maintained a private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for several years before being selected to serve as a federal magistrate. It was in that position that Phil was able to use his legal skills and years of community involvement to better conditions in Austin. He presided over the renovation of the old Travis County jail and helped to prevent a disaster when the locks didn't work! He also worked with the Tri-Ethnic Committee to help further desegregate the Austin schools.
After 17 years as a federal magistrate, Phil began his first retirement with a return to private practice. After two years, he was called back into public service after being selected as presiding judge for the Austin Municipal Court. He served the court in that position, and later as a part-time judge, until his full-time retirement.
Throughout his life, "the Judge," as he was affectionately nicknamed, used his legal skills and his servant leadership abilities to try to make the world a better place. Although he was born in Travis Heights, Phil liked to say that he "grew up on the East Side." That is where his faith and passion first drove him to spend most of the waking hours of his young adulthood establishing programs for disadvantaged youth.
The baseball team that he founded and coached grew to be so proficient that the police league poached some of Phil's team's best players! He managed to get brand new uniforms for the boys, a vast improvement over their threadbare hand-me-downs. Phil also established and cosponsored an Explorer Scout troop with his good friend Bill McCullough, a probation officer for Travis County. It was an omen of their life of service together that Phil's first date with his future wife, Kay Wallace, was to an Explorer Scout Christmas caroling party.
At one of his favorite programs, the E. 9th St. Mission and Community Center on Webberville Road, Phil established Sunday school classes for two different age groups and then enlisted the help of the youth group of his home church, First Baptist Church, to expand outreach. Every Sunday afternoon, that old ramshackle building on Webberville would be full of little kids and teenagers sharing the love of God for all people. There was also a movie night on Fridays, which drew spectators from all over the neighborhood.
Phil's service to Austin communities resulted in numerous awards, though he never sought those. Among them, he was recognized as Mentor of the Year for the state of Texas for his volunteer services at the Turman House, a halfway house for juveniles reentering the community. He was particularly pleased, however, with his induction into the Austin Sports Hall of Honor for Outstanding Contribution to Youth Sports in Austin. His family also especially liked the plaque he received from the PAL program on which these words were engraved, "For your most congenial personality which has endeared you to our hearts."
His life direction as a "missionary/social worker with a legal degree" was also evident in his board memberships including the Austin Crime Commission, Austin Gang Task Force, and the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center, as well as a host of others. He worked most recently with Richard Troxell, founder of House the Homeless, to alleviate homelessness in Austin and across the nation.
Phil's congregational family at First Austin can attest that, as a beloved deacon and choir member, he was never hesitant to remind all who could hear that the purpose of this Christian life is to love and serve others and to praise God in the highest while doing it. Philip E. Sanders spent his life looking for ways to further the kingdom of God. He was a man of total honesty and complete integrity whose family and friends adored him. By any measure, he was enormously successful.
Phil was predeceased in April of 2022 by his namesake and only son, Philip Eugene Sanders, Junior. He was also predeceased by his parents, Eugene and Lois Sanders. He is survived by his wife, Kay Wallace Sanders, who shared an incredible marriage of 61 years with him; daughter Alison Irby and her son Cole; daughter Nancy Snyder and her husband Brian, and their sons, Brian II and Chance; Brian's daughters Kimberly Snyder and Megan Morales, and Megan's sons Hudson and Wyatt.
Memorial services will be held on February 18, 2023 at First Baptist Church of Austin at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations in Phil's memory be made to First Baptist Church of Austin or a charity of your choice.